The sense of smell plays a major role in our Christmas memories. From the cookies in the oven to the peppermint and hot chocolate to the evergreen wreaths and trees, there aren’t many smells like the aromas of Christmas.
But have you ever wondered what the smells around the birth and early years of Jesus were like? No, not the barn scents of the manger, but the aromas of the gifts given to the young Messiah by the Wise Men. One Israeli farmer is working on making those gifts available to everyone .
Manger aside, the baby Jesus may have been swaddled in pleasant and pricey fragrances, thanks to the presents that the Bible says were given to him by the Wise Men of the East.
The frankincense (pungent and sweet) and myrrh (sharp and piney) recounted in the Gospel of St Matthew are being grown by Guy Erlich, a businessman who hopes to revive the rare plants’ use for commercial ends.
Erlich is even replicating the smell of gold, but not like we think. Some Christians believe that the Wise Men’s gift of gold refers to a specific aromatic resin, that of the Balm of Gilead. I’ve never heard that theory before – and archaeologists don’t buy into it either, but the description of the amber resin as having a scent blending citrus and cinnamon sounds delightful.
This farmer and entrepreneur specializes in the medicinal plants that originate from the era of the Bible, and he believes that cultivating and using them may benefit us today.
I decided to focus on plants that no one else in the world grows. Since those plants, those medical plants of the Bible were in medical use for so many years, there must be something about them and it is our duty to look for it.
Erlich looks to market his incenses and resins not just to Christians looking for an authentic Christmas fix but also to Jews who seek to replicate the smells that permeated the temple in Jerusalem centuries ago. He thinks the common aromas may help bridge the gap between people.
“My plants are sacred to all religions,” he said. “Now they can be a uniting factor. They can be a common ground. They can connect people.”
Who knows? He just might be on to something.